A mention of the German influence in Prague

The impact that German culture had in Prague and the whole country was enormous, in many areas. Let me mention only several cases.

There used to be a German market place on Porici street, established at the end of the 11th Century. This was important mainly for its status: it was granted three basic rights, which later applied to the Prague Germans in general- the right to vote their own magistrate, its own friar and the right to trade.

Germans at Charles University

The first major period of (not only) German influence was the reign of Charles IV. The king invited German artists to the capital and, more importantly, there was a migration of students to the newly founded Charles University. The University was the only one in the area east of the Rhine river, though this position was soon lost as Universities were founded in Heidelberg, in Krakow, in Vienna… needed to say, with Czech scholars’ support.

In 1363 Konrad Waldhauser, the famous German reformist priest moved to Prague. He continued his work in the Old town churches. Though there were attempts for his imprisonment he was supported by Czech academics and finally won tolerance at the court. His ideas, mainly his rejection of simony (possibility to have your sins pardoned after paying sort of a fine) inspired the Czech priest Jan Hus at the end of the century.

There is an interesting record on the relations by a 19th century German historian, Karl Ludwig von Woltmann. A personal friend of J. W. Goethe, their correspondence being also tied to the Czech capital, he was particularly interested in Czech history. He recognized Czech tradition of struggle for emancipation from stronger neighbouring states (including his own) and promoted the Hussite movement as the highlight in Czech history. He pointed out, that the German element is destined not to take roots in the Czech lands, at least not in the position of those in command.

In 1813 Prague was to host a meeting between Napoleon’s delegates, Russia and Britain. At the last minute, the French warlord turned down the opportunity for peace talks. Still, Prague became an important place of gatherings in salons. German salons hosted contemporary celebrities like Fichte, C. Brentano or Metternich.

German writers

Towards the end of the century and in the first decades of the subsequent, there was an ever stronger link between the two cultures, culminating in the period of the Prague German writers- Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel, Oskar Weiner, Paul Leppin, Max Brod and others. These authors absorbed the influence of Prague atmosphere very strongly, though their national sentiment was rather towards Germany. Until 1935, Prague remained the centre of German artists, who’ve left their homeland because of the rise of the Nazi party.

I should also mention Golo Mann, one of the sons of the world- famous novelist Thomas Mann. Golo developed great interest in Czech history. He visited Prague and other Czech cities on numerous occasions, gathering historical material about the Thirty Years War. In 1971 he released Wallenstein, a monumental biography of an important, yet controversial 16th century Czech politician and general.

Aug 24, 10:32 (Filed under: Foreign influence in Prague )

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  1. Great information as usual. Really informative.

    I was wondering if you have time to do more reviews on some arab and asian restaraunts! thanks.

    — Don    Aug 24, 19:50    #